A-level students being ‘stuck in limbo’ for too long by universities as they face delay for places

The Telegraph, 10.08.15, a leading headmaster says exam boards who mark A-level papers properly should be 'named and shamed'. Richard Harman, Chairman of HMC and Headmaster of Uppingham School is quoted.

Universities are leaving students 'in limbo' for too long after A-levels following new rules that allow English institutions to take as many students as they want, the chairman of a private schools association has said.

His warnings follow previous reports of thousands of applicants left waiting for days for universities to make up their minds on their application.

Last year, there were 68,000 applicants from England with "holding offer" status, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas). In many cases those waiting for decision from a university on their application are unable to make key decisions like securing student accommodation.

The chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents top independent schools across the UK, said waiting times for students are “unreasonable”.

Richard Harman, who is also headmaster of Uppingham School, said: “This year, we will be monitoring the recent habit of a couple of leading universities in holding on to applicants who narrowly missed their offer grades for an unacceptably protracted time.

“It is completely unreasonable for a university to be unable to confirm, eleven days after receiving an applicant’s results, whether or not they have a place. This must not happen.”

A UCAS spokesman said: "Acceptance decisions [are] pending for several reasons including awaiting exam results such as GCSEs, which are needed to fulfill their offer conditions.

"Universities balance their numbers carefully and do release students into Clearing as quickly as they are able, over the period.

"UCAS has reminded all universities and colleges of the need to release students they are not going to accept swiftly."

Mr Harman also said it has been working with the exams regulator, Ofqual, to “bring about an all-round improvement to examinations”.

In efforts to improve the marking system, Mr Harman said exam boards who fail to mark A Level papers properly should be named and shamed, private school heads have said amid fears children will have university places scuppered.

The calls for “greater transparency” in the publication of re-grades follows earlier calls by the Government for reforms as pressure grows on exam boards to deliver accurate A-level and GCSE results on time.

He wrote: “We will be looking for a reverse in the steeply increasing number of students whose A level results are re-graded on appeal, in that frantic period from results day through to the end of August.

“It is highly disturbing that, last year, 23,200 A level subject papers were re-graded – more than double the number in 2010.

“As the days following results go by, thousands of university applicants waiting for appeal results are left in what turns out to be a needless state of limbo, worrying about whether their accommodation options or even their place at university will disappear because of marking errors.

“One way to reduce this problem for future years would be through less secrecy and greater transparency, via publication of re-grade statistics by subject and by exam board. But the real remedy lies in more accurate first-time marking.

It also follows revelations that exam boards are “guestimating” A-level grades each year as many expect a sharp rise in appeals against grades this summer.

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